nancy's blog

The ride south from Quito

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Working the mud for the tiles near Saquisili
Working the mud for the tiles near Saquisili (View on flickr)

Molding the clay for the roof tiles (tejas)
Molding the clay for the roof tiles (tejas) (View on flickr)

Watching the whole process
Watching the whole process (View on flickr)

We rode out of Quito heading south on Sunday morning to miss the busy traffic. But we did not succeed in missing the polluted buses that blew thick black exhaust straight into our taxed lungs. We had just been at sea level for 10 days and the re-aclimation back to 10,000 feet was taking me a few days. Chest pains, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate was not helped by the pollution emitted by almost all vehicles that passed us as we climbed to higher elevations. The city landscape was replaced with green pastures, cows, llamas, sheeps and small pueblos with amazing markets. I started to breathe a little better but about 20 miles outside of Quito, I called it quits for the day and we stayed overnight in Machachi. I spent the afternoon roaming around the markets where I bought a pair of high socks made of wool and looked at the traditional felt hats which ranged according to quality from $10-$50 and wool ponchos for about $15. Randy who can't tolerate shopping for a whole 5 minutes headed to the internet.

The next day we rode the Pan-American highway for about 20 miles and then found a back road that headed south through much quieter, farmlands. This road is what I like about bike touring. No traffic, no painted line, fresh air and rural folks who waved at us as we pedal past their adobe homes. It felt good to be on the bike again and feeling much better.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Donde Estamos: Quito, Ecuador! Junio de 2008

Miller, Pablo, and Nancy making Ajiaco soup for Mother's Day
Miller, Pablo, and Nancy making Ajiaco soup for Mother's Day (View on flickr)

¡Saludos a todos nuestros amigos que hablan español! Ya estamos en Quito, Ecuador después de un recorrido montañoso desde Medellín, Colombia.

Al contrario de todo lo que ustedes han oído sobre Colombia, hemos conocido nada mas que buena gente. Y no tuvimos problemas con la delincuencia ni narcotraficantes ni la guerrilla. Nos quedamos también en las casa de cuatro familias muy agradables que abren sus casas a ciclistas. Nunca olvidaremos la amistad y el cariño de esta gente. (Gracias a Jon y Ivo en Manizales, Gonzalo y toda la familia en Armenia, Miller y su familia en Cali, y a Santiago y su familia en Popayán. Ustedes nos dieron una experiencia increíble en Colombia.)

De Medellín pasamos a Manizales (que queda muy alto) y Armenia, Cali, y Popayán. De Popayán tomamos un bus para visitar al sitio arqueológico de San Agustín. Allí vivían desde 2000 A.C. hasta 700 D.C. una cultura increíble, y su esculturas nos hizo recordar la escultura de los Olmec del este de México.

Antes de Popayán habíamos experimentado montañas y grandes cuestas, pero de Popayán h la frontera con Ecuador fueron increíbles subidas y vistas, valles, y barrancos enormes. En un solo día tuvimos que subir hasta 3000 metros o más, bajar a 900 metros, y empezar a subir de nuevo. Pero el paisaje fue de lo mas bonito que hemos visto en nuestro viaje. (En todo nuestro recorrido desde Canadá decíamos que todo era práctica para las Andes, y ya que estamos aquí reconocemos que decíamos la verdad!  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Nancy's remembrances of Colombia

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Cartagena bay
Cartagena bay (View on flickr)

About a year ago Randy and I started talking about the pros and cons of riding through the most northern country of South America. We all know that Colombia has had a bad reputation for years because of narcotrafficking, the FARC guerrilla organization, paramilitary groups, kidnapping, etc. We even told our family members we would skip this country and fly straight to Ecuador. After reading the wonderful adventures of other cyclists who dared to enter the foreboding country we started to understand things have changed for the better of the last few years. The most current reports tell how Colombia has gone and is still going through a great metamorphosis. Much of the change can be attributed to the President, Álvaro Uribe, who is determined to make Colombia a safe place after more than 40 years of conflict.

The following is my impression of Colombia during our bicycle ride in May 2008.

We entered the seaport of Cartagena after sailing from Panama. The cityscape looked like a mixture of Quebec, Canada, Miami, Florida, and New Orleans, Louisiana. Cartagena is surrounded by stone fortresses built to protect the city from years and years of pirate attacks that the city endured in the time that it was a key treasure port for the Spanish. Currently there is an astonishing number of new skyscrapers being built -- I counted over 20 huge cranes hanging over the city´s waterfront, a sure sign of prosperity and growth.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

San Agustín: Archaeology Side-trip

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San Agustin Image
San Agustin Image (View on flickr)

Randy and I have made a priority of visiting many pre-Columbian archeology sites during our bike trip from the north pole to the south pole. After a month of riding the beautiful country of Colombia we decided to go off-route and take a bus 6 hours from Popayán to San Agustín, a magical place full of thousands of pre-Columbian sculptures and burial sites. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, San Agustín is a place of natural beauty and important universal culture. Some artifacts have been carbon dated as early as 3300 B.C., and aparently it was one continuous culture from that period to the date it mysteriously disappeared in the 8th century A.D.

Who built these and why are both total mysteries. Some theorize it was all a city for the dead - since humans live a short time on this earth but a long time in the after life, the burials require their own city. This spiritual place is a burial place to honor those in the after life. The hundreds of burial sites found throughout the 50,000 hectare area are full of treasures, potteries and huge sculptures guarding the tombs of the dead. Standing erect are mystical megalithic sculptures representing gods, and mystical animals. Almost all the sculptures have mammoth heads two or three times large than the body, either short legs or none and also human and animal features intermixed. The majority have jaguar or eagle features carved into the huge free standing carefully sculptured rocks. Some are realistic and others are rather abstract.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Colombia hospitality

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Ivo cutting up fruit in Manizales
Ivo cutting up fruit in Manizales (View on flickr)

We have been very blessed to be invited to the homes of new friends in Colombia. We contacted 4 different people in four different parts of Colombia that offer hospitality through the website. All four answered us and offered us the warmest welcome to stay with them.

We've now visited the four wonderful hosts on our route in Colombia. The first one was in Manizales, up a huge climb, huger then huge but worth every inch of the climb. We stayed with Jon Olson and his new wife, Ivo. Jon is orginally from Minnisota and currently lives in Manizales teaching math in a bilingual school. Ivo, a native of Bogotá, is a speech therapist by professional who until she got married 3 months ago worked at a university in her home town. (She is currently looking for work in Manizales.)

The two of them gave us a great view of Colombia, educated us to proper etiquette and answered so many questions we had. It was a wanderful to stay with them in their fourth-floor penthouse and kick back for a day off. Ivo is a master of making juices from exotic fruit and an excellent cook. I even went to the store with them and bought every different kind of fruit I had never tasted. Some I liked and some I did not, and some I did not have chance to taste because we were just too busy to cut it all up and give it a try. Watermelon was the favorite by everyone.

We left Manizales and cycled to Armenia in one day.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Which of the following are truly exaggerations about Colombia?

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  • In Colombia they raise cows with one leg longer than the other in order to have cows that can graze on the steep slopes.
  • They grow tomato trees on the mountain hillsides.
  • The clouds are so thick with moisture you need a snorkel to breath the air while cycling the high country.
  • Cyclists have the right of way.
  • There are military checkpoints every 10 miles on the major roadways.
  • Motorcycles outnumber cars and the drivers are required to wear a vest and a helmet with the license plate number visible on both vest and helmet.
  • Thousands of motorcycles are also taxis.

Medellin, Colombia - A Young City

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Medellin's sparkling Metro and Botero billboard behind
Medellin's sparkling Metro and Botero billboard behind (View on flickr)

Hours of walking the streets of Medellín, Colombia gives me a true sampling of the culture of this cosmopolitan city.  Medellin is the capital of Antioquia and home to 3 million people. The city is the center for culture, health, government, education and art. All of this is wrapped up together creating a diverse and interesting experience.  Situated in the middle of the Columbian Andes, the city has grown out of the valleys and up the steep slopes. I am in awe to see houses so high up the mountain, I wonder how they built the houses up there and why they don't just tumble down off the mountain side.

Weaving and crisscrossing through this pulsing city are pedestrian walkways, many of them.  This is where the true culture of this grand city can be found. Vendors hawking their wares are everywhere.  Most curious are the converted baby carriers which are now used as vendor carts.  You will find many things being sold from baby carriages such as thermoses full of freshly brewed Columbian coffee, wooded cartoon full of cigarettes, gum and sweets, roasting beef, fruits, vegetables, clothes, batteries, etc.  Anything you might want to purchase can be bought from the ambulant street vendors.

A Wonderful Rest Day in a Beautiful Place

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Beautiful Monteria riverside park
Beautiful Monteria riverside park (View on flickr)

Montería, Córdoba, Colombia, is a town a cyclist might miss or any other tourist might just drive by it because it is off the main road by quite a few kilometers. If you ever come this way, do come and spend a day or two. We are amazed at the street after street of vendors and the most amazing riverside park we have seen in our travel of the Americas.

Situated along the Sinú river is a town that could be any town in Colombia but it is not because of the incredible riverside park. The park, built 5 years ago, is the shining gem of the town. There are brick lined walkways for pedestrians, a bike path with striped lanes, an art museum, a small amphitheater for practicing plays and breakdancing tricks like spinning on the head. There's an internet cafe for coffee and for writing this story, exotic plants, huge trees with monkeys, a wonderful playground with attendants to take care of the children, a adult playground for stretching and doing strength training, ice cream shops, haircutting stands (yes, right in the park). All of this was designed by some extraordinary designers who turned this riverside property into a world-class site for all to enjoy. The best part it is a public park and absolutely free. The town has invested a lot of resources into this public space and is continuing to expand into the rather raunchy street side fish market vendors.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

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